School of Pharmacy

Careers in pharmacy

Pharmacists work in a range of industries related to the manufacture, prescription and provision of medicines.

Government agencies regulate the quality and availability of drugs, pharmaceutical companies research and trial new compounds, and community and hospital pharmacists liaise with the public and other health professionals on the safe and effective use of medicines.

Graduates can expect to gain employment in any of these areas and may find rewarding positions in related industries such as medical publishing or pharmaceutical marketing. The degree of Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm) may also be used as a basic qualification leading to postgraduate study in pharmacology, health science or toxicology.

Potential careers include:

Community pharmacy

A career in community pharmacy offers 'patient-focused' pharmacists a challenge in balancing professional and business interests. Community pharmacists dispense prescriptions or make "over-the-counter" sales to patients. They are involved in prescription review and advising patients about the safe use of medicines, health education and health promotion. Their roles may extend to providing a medication supply and support services to nursing homes, dispensing methadone to opiate-dependent patients, the provision of sterile injecting equipment to injecting drug users in the form of a "needle exchange" service.



Hospital pharmacy

Working in a hospital allows pharmacists to apply their whole range of skills from clinical practitioner to scientist to manager. Every medicine requires a delivery system, be it a tablet, injection solution, suppository or cream. Pharmacists are the only healthcare professionals who understand how these work. Successful treatment with medicines requires a detailed knowledge of the effects of the drug, on the condition it is being used to treat and on the rest of the body. It requires the drug to be available for use and within its shelf life and a good knowledge of how to get the best out of it. This requires clinical skills, people skills, information retrieval, and analysis and management skills. Starting as a generalist working between the dispensary and the wards, it is possible to progress as a clinical specialist, medicines information specialist, or to develop in people management and/or supply management. The BPharm is the entry qualification, but postgraduate qualifications are essential to progress to higher levels.


The pharmaceutical industry

Career opportunities are available both in New Zealand and overseas and include: research and development, formulation development, manufacturing, clinical research, clinical trials, regulatory affairs, quality assurance, product information, sales and marketing.




Finding a new way to keep blood pressure under control, making painkillers work better, preventing mastitis in milking cows, designing new foods and drinks or banishing wrinkles; the skills of the pharmacist apply to many fields. In universities, research institutes, industries and hospitals world-wide, pharmacists are involved in designing new medicines, designing methods to deliver them into the body and to their site of action in the patient, whether the patient is human or animal. Pharmacists are also extensively employed in food, beverage and cosmetic fields. The normal path to a career in research is to gain high academic achievement in the BPharm programme to earn direct entry to PhD studies. PhD studies can be undertaken entirely within a university or jointly with industry or a research institute.



The pharmacists of tomorrow will receive their education at research-led universities. For those pharmacists who really enjoy passing on established knowledge, teaching and generating new knowledge (research), a PhD (or equivalent) in a specialist area of pharmacy practice or pharmaceutical science is now regarded as the entry standard for a full-time academic career. Alternatively, you can remain primarily in pharmacy practice but have a significant teaching input. This career path will appeal to those who enjoy pushing back the frontiers of knowledge and working with students.


Pharmacy administration and regulatory affairs

Many governmental and professional organisations, as well as the pharmaceutical industry, employ pharmacists as managers and professional advisers. These pharmacists provide professional advice, for example on notional medicines policy or the development of new pharmacy services. In the industry, they advise on issues concerning the registration and marketing of new medicines. This career path will appeal to pharmacists who enjoy using their skills and knowledge in 'making a difference' in public policy or the utilisation of medicines.


Medical publishing

Perhaps surprisingly, medical publishing employs a large number of pharmacists in New Zealand. With the contribution of a firm scientific background and clinical practice in the use of medicines, pharmacists are uniquely placed to write authoritatively on pharmaceutical and therapeutical topics. Many pharmacists commence as medical writers before graduating to editorship and management in medical publishing. This career path will appeal to pharmacists who really enjoy being at the forefront of therapeutic knowledge, and who have an aptitude for writing.


Advisory pharmacists

Advisory pharmacists or pharmacist facilitators work under a group of doctors, supplying information on medications and recommending procedures for handling common conditions seen in general practice. They also carry out background studies, develop strategies for particular projects and investigations into the use of medicines, such as costs and making suggestions for more valuable use and/or decreasing the cost of treatment.



Comprehensive Pharmaceutical Care (CPC) pharmacists

To become a Comprehensive Pharmaceutical Care pharmacist, you must undertake additional training. These pharmacists review and observe a patient's medicine use so that the patient obtains the full benefit from their medication. CPC's may be working in a single community pharmacy, as a specialist working on their own, or in a number of different pharmacies.